News from the snow
Zell am See Austria
The attractive lakeside town of Zell am See has a different feel to it than most Austrian ski destinations. Perhaps because of its size or its water front location, this is not the normal mountain village made up of a few dozen giant wooden chalets. On the other hand the mountains are still there, towering high above to altitudes capable of maintaining glacier skiing at neighbouring Kaprun, so the comparatively low altitude of Zell am See doesn't prevent guaranteed skiing throughout the season. The two have been joined, on the same pass at least if not by lifts, in the Europa Sport Ski Region since 1968. Today there are more than 130km of trails (78 miles), 80km (50 miles) of which are local to Zell. Even though it doesn't meet the standard Austrian resort model, it's still a very scenic spot, with the lake in front and the mountains behind. Another factor making Zell seem that bit different is the feeling of history that oozes from the medieval centre (now pedestrianised) and the culture of the place which stems from it. The water sports, beach parties, classical concerts, festivals and theatre performances at the castle all combine to prove that Zell am See was around long before winter sports were thought of, and still has a life beyond them.
A small town on the shores of Lake Zell with a wide range of shops (pedestrianised centre), restaurants and off-slope activity options. Connected with Kaprun, although not quite lift linked to it.
Beginners normally start up by the aforementioned Sonnenalm cable cars and will find the easier blue runs up on top of the mountain, with the option of taking the lift back down if the long run back is too daunting in the early days. Intermediates will enjoy Zell am See's skiing the most with more than 50km (32 miles) of red and blue runs to whizz around on, including an 6.5km (4 mile) trail, the Schutt, descending the full 1200 metre vertical back down to the resort.
Advanced skiers have several long medium-steep blacks descending through the forest to enjoy, some usually mogulled, and Zell has a reputation for good off-piste powder when conditions are right. Zell am See's sunny slopes do have good snow-making cover on nearly two-thirds of the piste, however most skiers will wish to visit Kaprun's glacier skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier during their stay. This is accessed by a ski bus which runs every 20 minutes in high season, and once an hour during other periods, journey time is around 30 minutes and the service is free to lift pass holders. Lift queues at the glacier, that resulted in the past when skiers from neighbouring low level resorts arrived in droves when conditions were poor, have been eased by the installation of a new six seater chair.
Cross country skiers have up to 200km (125 miles) of trails around the valley including a 10km (6 mile) track on frozen Lake Zell, a three kilometre (two mile) illuminated track at Schüttdorf and a two kilometre high altitude trail on the Schmittenhohe at 1,500 metres.
There is a kindergarten for children aged one or over and several of the hotels have in-house crèche facilities. Children aged up to seven can use the lifts free if accompanied by their parents, children aged 6 to 16 pay about two thirds of the adult high season rate and about three quarters of the low season rate. There is also a youth rate for young adults aged 16 to 18. Large families also benefit from a deal whereby the first child (aged up to 15) pays the child rate, the second child receives a 50% reduction and all other children are free. This applies only for children aged under 15.
Zell am See is a top destination for snowboarders with the Europa Sport Region. Local to Zell am See there's a Fun Park with half pipe at Glocknerwiese on the Schmittenhöhe with one of Austria's original two Boarder Cross courses with jumps, ramps and bumps and there's plenty of surfing and cruising terrain all around the Region. The nightlife model also fits most 'boarders requirements.